When Kathleen White's husband passed away two summers ago after an 18-month struggle with a heart ailment, she wondered aloud:
"What am I going to do now?"
Daughter Katy's response:
"Do what you do best, Mom. Take care of people."
Fast-forward two years, when Kathleen was honored in August as CAREGiver of the Month for the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise that serves the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Winchester, Virginia, and 25 other communities.Kathleen recalled when her daughter found the Home Instead Senior Care website during an internet search and what followed. "I was impressed with Home Instead's very fast response," said Kathleen, who joined owner Aaron Blight's franchise in January 2014. "I am glad I joined Home Instead because I enjoy being a CAREGiver. I learn from my clients. They have so much to say, and I get a kick out of our conversations."In addition to her late husband, Kathleen has been a family caregiver to many, including a great nephew and her mother, who passed away at 85. "Mom lived with us for months at a time – I have two sisters, and we would take turns with her. She suffered from cancer, and from severe depression at times because of medication interactions," Kathleen said. "After that experience, I was mad that I had not become a nurse – but that, of course, is second-guessing long after the opportunity had gone by."With my husband, I was very fortunate to have family nearby to help. I cared for him as well as I could. Looking back, it would have been nice to have known about the option of having a Home Instead CAREGiver. Families need help, and I know that from firsthand experience. Of course, that's what I do now as a CAREGiver. I help families just as much as clients."The bottom line, Kathleen said, is that she loves being with people, and she especially loves helping older people. "Taking care of them seems like second nature to me," she said. "Nothing bothers me. I just haven't found anything that stumps me. The toughest thing, of course, comes when someone passes. My first Home Instead client died of cancer. After watching someone go through all the suffering like my husband did, I am affected, but I also know when they pass the pain has ended and they are in a better place."What is the secret to Kathleen's caregiving success? "Training is wonderful because you learn the basics, and it helps. But you never know what to do until you spend a little time with the client; a lot of helping someone is using common sense. Compassion is a big way to a person's heart. I just fall in love with my clients. I take the time to listen to them, and I let my clients know I am here to help. Human contact is important. One thing I try to do is hold their hands because it helps with bonding and conveys my concern for them. One client in a nursing home loves to have me brush her hair."Describing one success story with a mischievous laugh and in a sheepish tone, Kathleen admitted, "Well, with one client, it is bribery, although I should not reveal that." The client, Kathleen explained, has dementia and resists taking a shower unless she is rewarded with a sweet treat. "At first it was chocolate ice cream," Kathleen said, "but I have changed to frozen yogurt."The only drawback to caregiving, Kathleen said, is that she wishes she could do more of it. She has multiple regular clients, but she tries to limit herself to about 24 hours a week. Kathleen said: "I have knowledge about a lot of care issues, and I have been given good matches for clients. Everybody in the office is pleasant, understanding and helpful. I had a situation that called for immediate attention, and staff member Veronnica helped greatly and put my mind at ease."I am grateful for Home Instead, which is a company that makes life better for seniors and their families. I feel good about what I do, and it makes me feel good to know I am needed. I don't have anybody I don't absolutely love. I cannot imagine not doing this. This is what I want to do."All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call 540-722-8750 or apply online. For further information about our home care services, please visit Home Instead Senior Care.